Blogging 102 – The Community of Peers

The Web 2.0 generation is the iPod generation. It is the MySpace and YouTube generation. It is the self-centered model of information production. These days are the days where one of my crazy rants can be read by dozens of people unrelated to me.

As bloggers, we are the grunts of a new faction. We are producers of information, may it be entertainment, news, public action, or just as an artform for self-expression. The table has turned from the large, centralized corporate information producers–the mainstream press and the media cartels–to you. And you can do basically whatever the hell you want.

Don’t be fooled for a second that we can exist without these big media guys. Still, life with people who blog, people who comment, people who aggregate blogs, links across them, and most of all–everyone who reads these things, contributing things, building up more things from the bare bones of everyday life (or even from the mass media) to form this new information ecology–makes a better world. Instead of caring for Tom Cruise, you get to care for your fellow bloggers, commenters, or just care about Tom Cruise all together (for example). It’s no longer about random things as much as it is about a group of people caring about random things. A community. An ongoing dialogue.

It may just be that I’ve been stuck in school for way too long, but this entire process reeks of academic peer-review publications, and how professors and researchers use these publications to build your next idea…it just seems natural. People critique each other in publications this way just as well as they collaborate to work on the same idea. This is a different community than, say, BBC and CNN; or TNT and Oxygen; definitely not FOX or NHK. It’s closer to 2ch or Slashdot, but not quite. What’s the difference? The long tail.

The ability of the internet to bring geographically isolated people who share similar interest together is the crux. I think in a macrocosm of American anime fans (for example), topically you’ll see a lot of people into Yugioh, Digimon, Final Fantasy, or what have you. Zooming in to any random segment and you’ll see the Naruto, FMA, or old fashion Ninja Scroll and Akira folks. Zooming in even more and you’ll see the digisubbing viewer mixed in all of that, the diversification of fandom expressed in cosplayers, fanartists, web comic people, and online personalities.

But is the anime blog community a reflection of that? Not quite so. I think within these sites there’s a conflict of sites who tend to “centralize” and sites that “diversify.” It’s a reflection of an instinct of people who wants to “syndicate” and people who relinquish that kind of editorial power to their readers. We have sites like Something Awful or Blogsuki which acts like filters, yet at the same time as censors. The Slashdots and Diggs today get around that by aggregating some kind of democratic response, but invariably they compromise on the same as well.

I suppose the criticism I have is that the lone dissenters today, just as they would decades ago, are still unheard. It is vastly improved in that they could be heard today, but the democratic process of filtering will still wash them out, and there’s no guarantee that a tightly-controlled, power-to-a-few-editors kind of process will improve exchanges of thought.

Then again, I think that’s also the case in academia. But somehow, merit speaks volumes more than appeal when the purpose is to discover truths rather than to entertain? Are there truths to be harvested in this medium, or are we just drones spewing meritless trash so we can claim we update regularly? Just because anime bloggers, invariably, flock to new stuff, is that why we don’t have much in terms of blogging older series? Is this the fingerprint of the god of Relevance? What is the state of the anime blog nation today?

Perhaps, the answer is a simple, “it doesn’t matter.” Perhaps it does; I don’t know. Maybe we’re at the right stage of the game given the size, but you can see it happening in various online communities even today. Still, a pinch of selfish interest is the way to go.

This is a continuing series of random stuff about blogging. Hit the “blogging” tag to see some of the previous entries!


9 Responses to “Blogging 102 – The Community of Peers”

  • Michael

    I think that if you consider anime to be solely an entertainment medium (something that many people tried to relegate to movies in general for quite some time), then yes, there is no point in what we’re doing. We’re simply relating our experiences. As someone interested in finding truth, however, in what I consider to be an artform, I find anime to be very meaningful. Unfortunately, amidst all the meaning I’ve found many individuals who simply concentrate on the entertainment and fantasy factor. Lolicons, NEETs, otaku (the crazy ones) – by whatever name you call them, the problem is growing. What is going to happen when those extremes get…well…too extreme?

  • j.valdez

    The “lone dissenters” will always be largely unheard because a “popular dissent” does not exist. It will become the majority view, and that means it isn’t decent anymore. Changing in the way people “think” can take decades or centuries. I agree that the current state is a vast improvement on their ability to be heard.

    I think peer review is an excellent method of refining an idea. I don’t see a lot of this in the anime Blogger community. In fact, many blogs rarely reference the work of other blogs or write related posts.

    >> “What is the state of the anime blog nation today?”

    In the long run it doesn’t matter.

  • jpmeyer

    A lot of fandom studies in academia looks at the whole idea of “lol does this even matter lol” and conclude that well, it probably does matter or else people wouldn’t feel compelled to do it. A clever reversal of the binary that I’ve seen from Henry Jenkins is that he pointed out that people seem to respond in rote, pre-programmed ways to high culture, but have hugely varied responses to pop culture.

  • j.valdez

    Just to clarify my comment on the state of the anime blog nation. I don’t think that it matters much in the long run what series is best or the merits of Gundam Wing vs. Gravion. I agree with jp that it does matter, to a degree, to anime bloggers and those who read anime blogs. The key aspect is that anime bloggers and anime blog readers are an infinitesimally small subset of the whole popular culture “thing.”

  • blueZhift

    I’m not even sure if whether a thing “matters” is even relevant with regard to anime blogs or blogs in general. Most blogging is probably done for the fun of it. So if fun matters then that’s probably as far as it goes.

  • TheBigN

    If only these actually were classes. :3

    I would assume that each anime blog basically has a single goal whether it’s explicitly or indirectly: to inform. And despite the best efforts of the blogger, it’s up to the audience to determine what they are informed about, or if they choose to be informed in the first place. I think a lot of that has to do with the reputation of the people that blog, or with familiarity. I do know that I probably wouldn’t know or check out other blogging sites if people like you, DarkMirage, or Jal hadn’t linked to them first, and even finding out about the blogs is due to the forum community that we’re in. Chances are, if you have something to say and say in a way that interests people, regardless of what it’s about (anime and everything in between :P), people will listen to it, and I only continue reading blogs if they continually interest me with what they talk about. For the moment though, it’s all about connections; even if you have something that is unique or can get people to notice, if people don’t know about it and don’t tell others, the “masses” just won’t know the wonder that probably is.

  • omo

    I put off commenting for some reason. Real life’s occupied my free time this week.

    j.valdez: The “lone dissenters” will always be largely unheard because a “popular dissent” does not exist.
    Just because you are heard doesn’t mean you are popular. Jack Thompson is a good example. People know who he is, but I don’t think people at all find his views to be the popular view.

    Michael: As someone interested in finding truth, however, in what I consider to be an artform, I find anime to be very meaningful. Unfortunately, amidst all the meaning I’ve found many individuals who simply concentrate on the entertainment and fantasy factor.

    I think there’s a lot to be said about the variety of fan bloggers in the “modern japanese akiba-ken media” scene, especially for foreigners to it. It has to do with relevance in that how each of us relate and tell our side of the story. And especially that gap between people who don’t take it beyond entertainment and those who do.

    jp: Henry Jenkins

    I think there’s more to be said beyond what he says. But it is a start.

    TBN If only these actually were classes. :3

    You’d be crazy to think I can write that much during my free time.

    inform

    I think that’s part of the whole thing. Blogging is a way to editorialize, to inform. But rote regurgitation is, somehow, extremely popular in the anime blogging scene. The most popular blogs are news-oriented, or ones that retell a raw ep, hot off winny/share, with a ton of screen shots. To me that’s the most useless type of blogs because if I’m going to watch that anime (and make up my own mind about it) I wouldn’t need to look at screen shots or read the synopsis. OTOH it serves a very helpful means for neophyte fans (a large part of the blogging/fansubbing scene) to keep track what’s cool and hyped and what’s not.

    It’s editoralize by selection.

  • impz

    I guess we can go back to the idea of why we blog and the purpose for it. If you are in academia, you probably know the very common theory called the uses and gratification theory. We use a certain thing in order to get satsifcation, be it to be informed, to be entertained or to have something novel, new in our lifes or as a social function, for catharsis, for issue formation, to gather new ideas or as a resource material. Many different reasons for blogging.

    These are probably some of the reasons why some blogs you consider useless (episode summaries blog which i am generally about) are also the mainstay of the anime community because most people are simply not insane or crazy enough. General viewers like such blogs, which is why they also get greater popularity. Where the good things are (good is hard to define), the people flock over, of course with recommendations, connections and unique information that can draw others in.

    Interesting article, i think i might write something about the function of blogs, specifically anime blogs. Good stuff here.

  • omo

    There are many reasons why people blog, and I think you’re right to go back to that as a legitimate question in the foundation of things because it makes a big difference.

    The “insane and not crazy” bit is LOL. But I think I’d rephrase it slightly in that it is a matter of relevance. People are not interested in things they don’t understand, but they probably can apperciate the “beauty” behind some level of insanity. The problem, of course, is that it is difficult to package this insanity in a way that people can understand. And it is questionable if there’s any real appeal to the writer in doing so.

    I think there’s also something that I left out about the “blogs I consider useless.” Obviously people who has had seen these hot-off-the-air episodes do read them too, to share and discuss. That’s arguably just as big of a part of the popularity to these mainstay blogs. And that I don’t find useless at all; it’s something I do, just in a different way.

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